Cardinals RB Rashard Mendenhall explains his retirement

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Arizona Cardinals running back Rashard Mendenhall will retire. Yes, at the tender age of 26. How’s that for a surprise to kick off NFL free agency?

UPDATE: Rashard Mendenhall explains his retirement decision to HuffPo

ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter first reported this development. Mendenhall battled turf toe for much last season. When he finally got to be 100%, Mendenhall scored five touchdowns in his final eight games. Rashard Mendenhall was “kind of a big deal” coming out of Niles West high school. As a five-star prospect, he was rated the No. 1 recruit in the state of Illinois by Scout.com. He committed to Ron Turner and the Illini where re-wrote the Illinois single season rushing record book.

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Illini RB Mikel Leshoure Entering NFL Draft

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Illini junior running back Mikel Leshoure held a new conference at his alma mater, Champaign Centennial high school, where he announced his entrance into the NFL Draft. And with the choice to hold a presser on this decision at his high school, he has has yet another trait in common with Pittsburgh Steelers tailback Rashard Mendenhall. Expect to hear even more Mendenhall comparisons as we enter NFL draft season.

By Paul M. Banks

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Mikel Leshoure to Rashard Mendenhall Comparisons Running Wild Now

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Given that they are/were both Illinois Fighting Illini, wore the same jersey number, played the same position, and didn’t break out until their junior year (and when they broke out, they really did it in style) it’s inevitable to compare current Illini tailback Mikel Leshoure to current Pittsbrugh Steelers star running back Rashard Mendenhall.

Heck, I wrote a column about it in October.

And after Leshoure’s huge, record-setting game in the Texas Bowl, more people are making the analogy. Leshoure was even asked the question Wednesday night, in the post-game press conference. Both are local products. Leshoure is from Champaign (Centenniel h.s.) and Mendenhall is from suburban Skokie (Niles West h.s.).

By Paul M. Banks

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Texas Bowl Sees Illinois and Baylor Break Numerous Records

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Last night’s college football match-up won38-14 by the Illinois Fighting Illini over Baylor broke a bunch of Texas Bowl, bowl history in the city of Houston, as well as Illinois and Baylor records. Seriously, there were a ton, but here are some of the most notable.

-The Illini tied the Texas Bowl record for most points scored 38 and most net yards gained at 533.

-Leshoure tied a Texas Bowl (and Houston Bowl game) record for most touchdowns with 3, rushed for a Texas Bowl record 187 yards.

-Scheelhaase set a Texas Bowl record for most consecutive passes completed at 13, completion percentage of 78.0. highest average gain per pass attempt (min. 20 attempts) at 13.4 yards. Both also highest in Houston bowl game history.

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Illini RB Mike Leshoure Sweeps National Player of the Week Awards

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Illinois Fighting Illini running back Mikel Leshoure is to this week’s national player of the week college football awards what Ohio State’s Evan Turner was to last year’s college basketball player of the year awards.

Leshoure was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week, Walter Camp Foundation National Player of the Week, Rivals.com National Player of the Week and College Football Performance Awards National Performer of the Week following his record-setting performance in Illinois’ 48-27 win over Northwestern at Wrigley Field on Saturday.

Leshoure broke Illinois’ single-game rushing record with 330 yards on 33 carries, an incredible average of 10.0 yards per carry, with two touchdowns. #5 also earned a “helmet sticker” from ESPN College Gamenight. This award goes to the top six individual performers from across the nation.

By Paul M. Banks

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Illini Mikel LeShoure: the Next Rashard Mendenhall?

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The Illini could very well run the table the rest of the way. Even if they don’t, already at 5-3, (3-2 in Big Ten) they have greatly improved upon last year’s 3-9 mark and will likely make their way into a pretty decent bowl. This season has been a pleasant surprise to say the least.

Among the talent on the Illini roster is a trio of juniors with NFL level measurables and potential. Tailback Mike LeShoure, Middle Linebacker Martez Wilson and Defensive Tackle Corey Liuget will probably all be playing on Sundays.

Given that Champaign’s Mikel LeShoure inherited the starting position from another in-state product, Skokie’s Rashard Mendenhall, who wore the same number, it’s impossible not to compare LeShoure his predecessor. He even earned the starting spot later in his college career like Shard did. So will he forgo his senior season and enter the NFL Draft like Mendenhall did?

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